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What Did You Do To The Shots Blog?

That's the question surprised visitors to our popular health blog were asking when they dropped by Shots today for a dose of the latest news from Scott Hensley and the NPR Science Desk.

Here's the story: The new look for Shots is an experiment. Our goal is to create an immersive environment based around discrete subject matter, health in this case. It's a layered news experience, bringing together original reporting from NPR, our analysis of the most important headlines from across the Web and our take on the current buzz in the space.

We will connect you with the most important and intriguing health stories of the day and the most important people in the news. And we'll do it in partnership with our audience, who are often already people in the fields we cover.

These ideas are already being worked out in full public view by our NPR colleagues on the station-focused Argo Network. Now we're bringing our take on those ideas to NPR.org.

But enough about the ideas driving our change. You're still wondering about the look of the thing.

The shots header and lead post. i i

The shots header and lead post. NPR hide caption

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The shots header and lead post.

The shots header and lead post.

NPR

The new Shots page has been stripped of many elements. The elements that remain are intended to orient the user (answering the question, Where am I?), focus the user (answering the question, What should I be looking at?) and engage the user (answering the question, What should I do next?).

The first visual cue on the page is the NPR branding in the top-left corner. Then the Shots banner and the topic navigation just below it combine to quickly let the user know they're on Shots, it's health news and, broadly, we have five areas of coverage.

Just below that, the "Watching" line allows us to highlight important news of the day that may have already been pushed down the page as the "river" of news flows on.

Moving past the top of the page, the focus is clearly on the content. Everything that matters is bigger. Each post is defined as an individual white "card" on a gray field. There's one message here for the user: The content is the star, it's the reason you're here.

Once the user is focused on the content, it's easier for them to make a choice and engage with the options on offer.

Tags take on a new prominence in this design. They help define the contents of a post at a glance. They also offer the reader the possibility of additional stories on stand-out subjects. We plan to use them for smart aggregation in the future, leading users on to stories they didn't even know they wanted to read before visiting Shots.

We've put the "fine print" (about text, RSS links, contact information, archive searches, podcast links) in the footer, a location most users know to check when they have questions about a website.

Things look a little different on the story pages. There are photo-driven topic promotions next to the story content. Just below the story you'll see headline-driven promotions for the two adjacent posts in the Shots river of news.

A Shots story page. i i

A Shots story page. NPR hide caption

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A Shots story page.

A Shots story page.

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These are efforts to give users who don't come in through the front door a reason to stay and explore the Shots community.

The last page type debuting today is a new topic aggregation page. Is the business of health your thing? Then you'll want to keep your eye on the "Health Inc." topic page where all of the posts focused on the business of medicine are collected in one place. The four other topic pages on the new Shots are: Your Health, Treatments & Tests, Policy-ish and Public Health.

The "Health Inc." topic page. i i

The "Health Inc." topic page. NPR hide caption

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The "Health Inc." topic page.

The "Health Inc." topic page.

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Each topic page also features a feed of headlines pulled from a select group of Twitter sources. It's a way of keeping an eye on what's being talked about by people who know what they're talking about, sources that we follow ourselves.

That's it, for now. We will be refining and expanding on these ideas over time, meaning that Shots will continue to evolve. We know where we'd like to go. But first we have to see what your reaction is to the new Shots.

Let us know what you think about the changes by leaving a comment below, or on the Shots blog itself. You can also get in touch privately via our contact form.

Oh, and if you were wondering who the "we" is referred to throughout this post, let me take a moment to publicly thank and congratulate the core team that launched us down this path: Patrick Cooper, Marc Lavallee, Scott Hensley, David Wright, Jen Tuohy, Joanne Garlow, Vincent Farquharson, Jason Grosman, David Gorsline, Scott Smith, Todd Welstein and Chris Schetter.

Wright Bryan is the producer for blogs at NPR.

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